A lot has changed in the last 10 months since Fallon won its second consecutive state title.
Bill Archer, who assisted Tami Peel and then Phil Pinder, is now the head coach after Pinder ended his tenure on a good note. He coached two of his daughters, both now competing in Division II on the college circuit, and brought back two state titles to the Lahontan Valley for the first time since the 1980s.
But for Archer, it’s all about continuing the same recipe that produced back-to-back state championships. Strong pitching, timely and productive hitting and near-flawless defense will once again be critical if the Lady Wave want to three-peat in only their third season in the Division I-A.
“It’s all the same. We’re still teaching the same fundamentals,” said Archer, who’s assisted by Stacey McNair and Brad Dolan. “I think we’re going to continue to have the same success with this new squad.”
And there’s no reason that Fallon shouldn’t be able to get back to the state tournament with the plethora of talent returning.
But if Fallon’s going to repeat again or even advance to the postseason, the Lady Wave will be without one key member who helped coach the program since the 1990s. Former assistant coach John Short is battling for his life as he’s being treated for throat cancer. The next couple of weeks are critical, but Archer said that Short plans on returning to the diamond once chemotherapy allows.
“That’s a tough deal. He told me he wants to stay involved but he has too much going on this year,” Archer said.
Archer said the team is revealing a burgundy ribbon on their jersey, dedicated to Short’s fight with cancer and reiterating his own philosophy with the team to “play like a champ.”
“There’s no better place for him to be on the ball field. It’s tough right now,” Archer added.
But the season must go on for the Lady Wave.
Despite losing the state’s best pitcher in Jill Pinder, Fallon still brings back a strong nucleus of power and defense. Pitching, however, could make Fallon seem mortal from the circle with Pinder out of the equation but don’t count junior Rileigh Ricken, who was the No. 2 starter last year. Archer also has a couple freshmen in his arsenal but said he will have a better feel after this weekend’s preseason tournament in Sacramento.
“She looks OK,” Archer said of Ricken. “She was behind Jill as the No. 2 pitcher and she has good velocity. She has a goal to play at the next level.”
At the plate, senior Danielle Rothery will make a case to be the state’s best player after she came one home run shy of the school’s single-season record and even belted a deep one in the state title game. From behind the plate, Rothery was also dominant in gunning down runners and that experience and leadership could help make the pitching transition smoother.
Aside from Rothery, second baseman Kaysee Archer and first baseman Cady Cordes round out the senior class and were both instrumental in the playoffs.
The junior class leads the team with four returning, including utility player Shelby Lawry, utility and first baseman Jen Connelly, outfielder Gabby Sharpe and Ricken. Shortstop Ali Tedford is the lone sophomore who saw extensive playing time last season in the outfield and gunned down a game-changing runner at home plate at the state tournament.
Six freshmen are on the team, which nearly makes up half of the 14-player roster.
“They’re all pretty good ball players,” Archer said of the freshmen. “The young talent is going to be exciting. It’s a good mix and the chemistry is going to be good. I think we’re going to be competitive for years to come and our JV squad is going to be stacked with decent talent.”
Pitcher Miranda Ford, infielder Megan McCormick, outfielder Izzy Thomas, utility Kalyn Huckaby, utility Macy Meyers and outfielder Paige Thorne made the team.
For the first time since Fallon left the Division I, the race to state supremacy could result in even more heartache.
Not only is Fallon coming back strong but Lowry will be out for revenge after dropping a 1-0 heartbreaker to the Lady Wave in the state semis. Fernley is the only team in the North to defeat Fallon in the last two years and could pose a problem as the Vaqueros return all of their pitching. Don’t count out Elko or Spring Creek from the Ruby Mountain division, either.
“The kids are excited. I don’t know if there’s pressure,” Archer said about getting back to the state tournament. “It’s going to be more competitive. You look at the teams and where they played tournament ball. Around the league, teams are doing the same. We expect the competition to be greater.”